Posts Tagged ‘food trends’

The Home Port ~ Martha’s Vineyard

Posted 16 Aug 2011 — by S.E.
Category Full Service, Travel, Warms My Heart

You would think that sustainable seafood is a focus on Martha’s Vineyard but it isn’t, at least not to the extent it should be. Some restaurants, more than a few in fact, offer a sustainable choice or two but there are few if any as dedicated to sustainable seafood as The Home Port restaurant in the sleepy little fishing village of Menemsha located on the lower west side of this triangle shaped island. Don’t get me wrong, there are good restaurants on the island and some of them offer a sustainable seafood choice or two but none have integrated sustainable seafood into the operation in a manner that even comes close to The Home Port.

The Home Port Restaurant Back Deck, Menemsha, MA

The Home Port is an institution. In business since 1930, it’s a beloved landmark and family dining destination. Situated just on the eastern side of Menemsha harbor The Home Port faces south west offering deck side diners a view of one of the nicest sunsets on the east coast. My first visit here was twenty years ago and nothing about the restaurant has changed….except the menu.

Dining Room with Blue Glasses

I arrive in a group of four and a smiling college-age server leads us over to a table along the far wall along a bank of windows. She takes a quick beverage order (The Home Port is BYOB) and departs for a few seconds while we settle in. The sun is hanging low over the horizon painting the interior of the restaurant in light orange and yellow. Tables are hard pine and maple as are the walls and trim that compliment solid wooden chairs with just the right patina for a restaurant this old. The flatware and china are simple and you won’t find table linens or cloth napkins here.  This is the type of place where, when eating a lobster, you wear a goofy plastic bib printed with a step-by-step set of instructions for how to eat it (you know the one). No pretension here. Dozens of fish, well preserved by a taxidermist, line an entire wooden wall.  It’s such a wonderful, bright, warm and inviting dining room and I love being here.

Customers Under Taxidermied Fish

For years the Mayhew family (a Vineyard institution in and of themselves) ran The Home Port. More recently, for 32 years until 2009 to be precise, Will Holtham owned and operated the restaurant. Holtham, author of the just released Home Port Cookbook, decided to sell in 2009 and the Town of Chilmark proposed purchasing it for cool $2,000,000 so they could demolish it in the name of progress…a parking lot and public bathrooms. Enter a counter offer from Bob and Sara Nixon, owners of the Menesha and Beach Plum Inns. After a quick vote by the residents of the Town of Chilmark, the Nixon’s saved The Home Port and Holtham was on his way into retirement, cash, recipes and cookbook deal in hand.

Oysters on the Back Deck

After becoming involved with the local Fisherman’s Association Sara announced on May 27th, 2011 that The Home Port would only serve locally caught fish. By locally caught, she means fish that are caught in the coastal waters surrounding the island and landed on local docks.  I love it (go Sarah)! No one on the island is as deeply committed to sustainable seafood as Sarah and Bob and they changed their business model to prove it. This is why I am here.

Server With Specials

My server is back and she presents the table with a medium sized chalk board that lists all the specials for the evening. The Cherry Stones and Little Necks are from Menemsha (delicious), the Oysters are from Katama (exquisite), the Fluke, Bluefish and Squid are from Menemsha too. I order the bluefish with creamed corn just to give it a shot. To my delight, the fish is absolutely delicious and perfectly cooked. Bluefish is great but is has to be perfectly fresh, the fish has no shelf life. It’s best when seared or broiled hot with the skin intact, scales removed, since the flesh cooks quickly and falls apart easily. My fish had the skin intact, was crispy on the top and moist in the middle. Most people think of bluefish as a trash fish but when served correctly like this, it’s wonderful. I also have a taste of the local fluke and, although presented
simply (almost too simply) it too is perfectly cooked and well seasoned if not a bit ugly.

Blue Fish Looking at You

As I said before, The Home Port serves simple food. You won’t find the latest culinary trend or the most outrageous presentations in the world but you will find good and, better yet, local fish served properly cooked and well seasoned. Arrive just before sunset, sit on the back deck, bring your own booze and order one of the local sustainable seafood items. Enjoy!

Sautéed Fluke with Lemon Brown Butter, Kale and Local
Tomatoes, Boiled Potatoes

Broiled Bluefish with Parsley Butter and Local Creamed Corn

Menemsha Sunset

The Home Port Restaurant

512 North Road

Menemsha, MA 02252

(508) 645-2679

Butcher: Smart Casual in New Orleans

Posted 30 Nov 2010 — by S.E.
Category Food Alert Trends, Full Service, Uncategorized

Sometimes I stumble upon a great restaurant without intending to do so. This was the case recently when I wound up on a bar stool in Butcher, Chef Donald Link’s sibling restaurant to Cochon in the warehouse district of New Orleans. Butcher was not my destination, I had originally set out to find the National World War II museum on Magazine Street. After a couple of wrong turns I ended up in the vicinity of the museum but three blocks further west than intended.  Looping back around the block I wound up in a maze of one-way streets woven through warehouses, condos, and restaurants that make up this side of the city. Within minutes I was back at the corner of Tchoupitoulas Street and Andrew Higgins Drive where I originally started feeling frustrated.  Andrew Higgins was the founder of Higgins Industries in New Orleans during the 1920’s. His Higgins Boats, light military landing craft designed to deliver troops directly from ship to shore, are widely acclaimed as one of the crucial innovations that helped the allies win World War II. That I  am on Andrew Higgins Drive indicated that I was in the right vicinity and that it would make more sense to park the car and walk over to the museum than continue wandering.  Thats when I found Butcher.

Fate would have it that I parked the car diagonally across the street from Chef Donald Link’s famous Cochon restaurant. Approaching on foot curious and hungry for lunch it was disappointingly clear due to inactivity that the main restaurant was closed. However, there was activity further down the block at small shop called Butcher.  Although reasonably well informed when it comes to restaurants, I hadn’t heard of Butcher prior to spotting it up the street. The customers seated at each of the two small tables on the sidewalk and group of people standing just outside the entrance are what caught my eye, the entrance being otherwise pretty ordinary.  

Once inside my perspective completely changed.  Although small in size, the seating area in the café was packed and there was a line five deep at the counter. Butcher was humming and the food being served looked excellent.  Customers at Butcher cue up just inside the entry and place their orders at a counter with two cash registers at the back end of the shop. The lines form up against two massive refrigerated deli cases filled with homemade charcuterie and fresh meats on the left side of the room.  A small hot kitchen is just on the other side of the cases.

I am in line now staring into the first deli case on the left which is packed with a selection of sausages, bacon,  long brown links of house made Andouille sausage, packages of Boudin Sausage (four links per pack), fresh pork loin, skirt steak, and ribeye, even a Jambalaya stuffed fresh chicken.  The line moves and I shift forward several feet where there’s another case with gorgeous house-made Pork Rillettes, Duck Rillettes, Duck Terrine, head cheese, Mortadella, Salami Cotto, and Duck Pastrami. I am in hog (and duck) heaven. The quality and craftsmanship on display in these cases is outstanding bordering on inspirational. A fan of all things Garde Manger, my mouth is beginning to water.

The line moves forward again and now I am next to the small butcher block countertop that serves as the pass for plates coming off the hot line. Studying the kitchen for a moment I am quickly distracted by a plate of braised duck on cornbread with poached eggs and mushroom gravy that comes up off the line. It is absolutely gorgeous and a perfect brunch item. A server passes by grabbing the poached eggs and another couple of dishes, forces his way through the line and runs them to a table. Starving, my attention shifts to the three large menu boards hanging above the cash registers and I start to narrow down my order. There are too many interesting items on the menu for me to choose just one so I order a Cubano sandwich, a duck pastrami slider, and a pancetta mac and cheese. The cashier hands me a number and I turn back toward the seating area to the right of the cue to find a place to sit. Seats vacate just as I start to move away from the cashier and I grab a bar stool up against the wall and to wait for my order.

It’s just around noon time on a Sunday morning and Butcher is packed with a mixed bag of late morning revelers, brunch seekers, and folks that strolled over from local residences. Based on the steady stream of food coming off the hot-line it’s clear that these people know how to eat; smoked country sausage with two eggs, house-made biscuit and Steens syrup,  fried chicken and biscuit with caramelized onion and cheddar cheese, BLT of house made bacon, arugula, tomato, and onion. It feels good to be in this restaurant.

The sun is shining brightly through the south-facing storefront and a handsome couple enters and takes a small table up front next to the window.  Glancing over at the couple as they settle in, I consider how warm, pleasant, and comfortable this place is compared to what it must have been like just after hurricane Katrina. Donald Link opened Cochon in 2006 after six months of delays due to the hurricane. In early 2009 Link added Bucher to his growing list of restaurants and the New York Times promptly dubbed it a “smart-casual” restaurant. I like the idea of a place being smart and casual.

Duck Pastrami Slider $6.00

My food arrives and I dig in. The mac and cheese is rich, creamy and full of savory richness from the pancetta. My Cubano is made with slow roasted pork loin (cochon du lait), smoked ham and cheese and grilled golden brown.  I splash a bit of Link’s sweet potato habanero sauce on one half of the sandwich and the sweet spicy flavor of the sauce adds a nice contrast. My favorite item however, is the Duck pastrami slider. A generous portion of sliced duck breast pastrami is grilled with cheese between two slices of bread until crispy and golden brown. By the time the plate gets to me, the cheese is just barely oozing out of the sandwich. It tastes delicious.

Pancetta Mac & Cheese $6.00

 I can only imagine the vision and perseverance required to withstand the challenges of Katrina and the BP oil spill in New Orleans. And yet the city lives on in places like Butcher due to people like Donald Link. Smart, casual, and sated…


Cochon Butcher

930 Tchoupitoulas St.

New Orleans, LA 70130


Salumi: Il Mondo Vecchio and Others

Posted 10 Nov 2010 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining, Food Alert Trends

Momentum has been building around a salumi and charcuterie craze since last September when Mario Batali strung over 100 individual salume above his buffet station during Emeril’s Carnivale Du Vin event at the Venetian Hotel in Vegas.  Batali decorated his station with all types of dry cured sausages and brought along three brand new commercial slicing machines so he could quickly and expertly cut the product to order as guests lined up to sample. Members of Batali’s staff handed out fresh cut samples of several varieties of salumi while Mario worked the crowd in his bright orange Croc’s and orange shorts, white bib apron tied around his waist. Armandino Batali, father of Mario and principal salumist at Salumi Artisan Cured Meats in Seattle, was the source of many of the salumi on display and Mario was proud to be slicing and handing out the goods.

Since that time I have traveled around the country and noticed more and more salumi on menus and, in some cases, chefs dry curing and aging salumi themselves. During a recent trip to St. Louis I dined at the Sidney Street Cafe and sampled the fine salumi that chef Kevin Nashan prepares and cures on site. After a wonderful multi-course meal at the café, Chef Nashan invited me down into the basement to see his curing room. He had six varieties of salumi (approximately 20 lbs worth) hanging in a climate controlled custom built vault, dehumidifier cranking away in earnest. Nashan offers a mixed salumi plate as an appetizer with house cured cabbage and fresh pretzel bread. His salumi is excellent and Nashan displays tremendous depth and talent in an old-school way as he works his kitchen making nearly everything from scratch.

Sidney St. Cafe Salumi Appetizer

Last weekend I noticed another phenomenon; construction of the first free-standing charcuterie shop I have seen in years while visiting Santa Cruz, California. Although pressed for time, I pulled into the chalky dirt parking lot of the Swift Street Courtyard to take a quick glance at the tasting rooms for Bonny Doon vineyard and discovered el Salchichero Handcrafted Charcuterie right there in the marketplace. El Salchichero, its name ablaze over the entry on a big red sign with white lettering,  is the inspiration of chef Chris LaVeque. He got his start selling charcuterie at the Santa Cruz Community Farmer’s Market out of a pop-up booth while serving as Sous Chef at Bonny Doons Cellar Door Café. El Salchichero wasn’t open yet when I passed through but the shop was nearing completion and it was perfectly located right next to an artisan bakery and Boony Doon’s tasting room. I can just imagine customers grabbing a nice baguette at the bakery, a fine glass of Syrah from Bonny Doon and a slab of pate from el Salchichero as an afternoon snack. That LaVeque is inspired enough by charcuterie to open up a dedicated shop left me smiling as I took off to the south, late for a meeting. If he had been open I would have never made my meeting! Best wishes Chris.

 Il Mondo Vecchio. My favorite salumi in the U.S., hands down, is that of Mark DeNittis of Il Mondo Vecchio in Denver, Colorado. DeNittis got his start by tinkering with various approaches to dry curing while teaching meat cutting at Johnson & Wales University. Denver has a perfect dry climate for dry curing and Denittis’ kitchen at Johnson & Wales was well suited for testing small batches of salumi and for creative experimentation. Early on in his experimentation DeNittis, a Massachusetts native, discovered a knack for producing high quality, all natural products and it was then that the seed was planted for commercializing his work via Il Mondo Vecchio. In short order, DeNittis secured a facility, a USDA inspector, a source for incredible fresh pork and a couple of partners and Il Mondo Vecchio was born. Since then, the company has grown considerably producing more than a half dozen products that are available online at their retail partner Five of my favorites

Il Mondo Vecchio Pork Pancetta

Denittis achieves a perfect balance with this cure and the pork retains a beautiful shade of pink with nothing more than pork, salt, and spices. His cure creates a firm yet pearly white fat cap with deep pork flavors with notes of fresh hay and spice. As this Pancetta renders it releases a concentrated pork aroma and wonderful creamy rendered fat.


Il Mondo Vecchio Calabrese Soppresate

This Soppresate is made from pork shoulder with additional pork fat, sea salt, paprika, garlic, and spices. It has a balanced nose with notes of paprika and garlic up front. Of all the Il Mondo Vecchio Salumi I enjoy, this one is my favorite due to its spicy, porky, salty, garlicy flavor. The texture is best when sliced medium thin (1/16 of an inch) and served at room temperature.  


Il Mondo Vecchio Saucisse Sec

The Saucisse Sec is DeNittis’ workhorse salumi. It is firm, fully cured and rich in flavor. Ingredients include Pork shoulder, pork fat, sea salt and spices. I serve this side by side with the Soppresate as a milder counterpoint to the Soppresate’s spicy flavor.


Il Mondo Vecchio Salume Vino e Pepper Nero

 The Vino e Pepper Nero is classic DeNittis. It consists of Pork shoulder, pork fat, red wine, sea salt, spices, and garlic and has deep notes of black pepper. In his early days, DeNittis often created unique salume like this one. The red wine helps create a deep color, firm texture and mild acidity that, paired with the spice and salt, provides a complexity unlike the other salumi I have sampled.


Il Mondo Vecchio Del Oro Beef Bresaola

Denittis gave me a sample of this Beef Bresaola. As he handed it to me he hesitated letting it go for a second, as though he wanted to keep it for himself, and it was right then that I knew it would be delicious. He also uses red wine in this item along with sea salt and spices but to a different effect. Although firm to the touch, this Bresaola shaves thin, has a nice firm outerl layer with fine marbeling on the interior and melts in your mouth.

For more than a decade I feared that salumi and charcuterie were a dying art. More than one culinary school revised their curricula, eliminating garde manger and charcuterie from the curriculum. Over the past five years, contrary to popular belief, the art of salumi and charcuterie making has been expanding and I predict that an artisan salumi and charcuterie movement will take hold in the U.S. Il Mondo Vecchio is a great example.

Rasika ~ Washington, D.C. Indian Fine Dining

Posted 12 Oct 2010 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining

Last month during one of my trips to Washington D.C., I made a point to trek over to Rasika at 633 D. St., NW in Penn quarter on for a meal. Being a fan and follower of great Indian food, I had been meaning to eat at Rasika for months but never had the time. This trip the timing worked so I made a reservation with high anticipation. What excites me most about Rasika is that it’s pushing the limit on Indian fine dining in America and earning rave reviews along the way including one of the highest scores for food in Washington D.C. by Zagat. Rasika also has talent in the kitchen. Executive chef Vikram Sunderam, one of the few Indian chefs to be nominated for a James Beard award (best chef Mid-Atlantic 2010), has a refined yet authentic touch when creating menu items and produces food as elegant as the stunning décor and service at Rasika. This is a serious Indian restaurant with a serious, talented, professional Indian chef.

Sunderam was hired away from the Bombay Brasserie in London by Rasika owner Ashok Bajaj. With Sunderam at the helm, Bajaj opened Rasika in 2006 to compliment his collection of restaurants in the Washington D.C. metro area. It’s telling that Bajaj had to recruit talent from London when opening Rasika. There’s no one else in America pushing the limits on Indian food the way Bajaj is at Rasika and, other than from India itself, London is the only place with an Indian culinary community mature enough to provide Rasika with this level of back-of-the-house talent. Reflecting on the restaurant décor, website, food, service and style, it is clear that Ashok Bajaj is a man of vision.

Bajaj’s first restaurant, Bombay Club, opened in 1989 and is now a Washington institution. After arriving in Washington in 1988, having completed stints with the Taj hotel group in India and London, Bajaj scraped together the resources to open Bombay Club with a partner and, sans partner, has added another restaurant to his empire every 2-4 years since. While dining at Rasika Bajaj stopped over to my table to say hello. He’s a distinguished looking, well dressed gentleman with great presence. He departed my table after a minute or two and I watched him walk away. As he walked he shifted his head from one side to the other, eyes darting around the restaurant to each table. Bajaj has the intuitive ability to “sense” when a restaurant is running well that all great restaurant owners have and his vision drives the progressive Indian fusion cuisine Rasika is known for.

Rasika represents the steady evolution of Indian cuisine in the U.S. Twenty years ago it wasn’t uncommon to find one or two good Indian restaurants in major cities but the cuisine was less prevalent in suburban areas and the food was tame compared to Indian food in the U.S. today. Even Bajaj agrees that the American dining public is shifting toward a wider acceptance of Indian cuisine. Perhaps we are headed into an era where Indian flavors and cooking techniques will become as common in America as Latin and Mediterranean flavors have been in recent years. If this happens, we will have Sunderam and Bajaj to thank, in part, for showing us the way.

My meal at Rasika was served family style for a table of seven. The photos below reflect this (FYI).  

Chili Garlic Scallops $12 Ginger, lemon juice, poha

Barbeque Shrimp ($12) Fresh mint chutney

Entrée (l-r) Bhindi Amchoor (sliced okra with dry mango powder), Dal Makhani (lentils, tomato, garlic, fenugreek), Chicken Tikka Masala, Basmati rice

Rasika Bread Basket $8 Assorted Naan/Roti

Gulab Jamun ($8) & Apple Jalebi Beignet with Cardamom Ice Cream ($8)

Rasika 633 D St. NW

Washington, DC 20004-2904


Flavor Forecast 2010

Posted 23 Sep 2010 — by S.E.
Category Food Alert Trends, In Case You Missed It!

After talking with several culinary folks today about emerging food trends I notice from time to time I have decided to add a new category titled “In Case You Missed It” as a holding pen for quick posts about current events, trends and happenings in foodservice. The individuals I was speaking with were not aware of these trends and were interested in them and my take on what they mean. As always, I am happy to share.

Today’s post is about McCormick’s Flavor Forecast 2010. Not only do I love the list of flavor pairings this year but I also love the press that Kevan Vetter, McCormick & Co’s corporate chef is getting for his decade long run of predicting some of the most popular and culture shifting flavor combinations in America. Vetter is a kind hearted, collaborative, and sharing guy who goes about his work in a professional yet understated manner. He epitomizes the “open source” approach to food and food ideas that has taken hold over the past five years. To get a sense of the guy, you have to watch his video forecast…it’s a must see. He is joined in the video by the funky Richard Blais, and the delightful Rachal Rappaport, a fellow food blogger from Baltimore.

My two favorite flavor parings (ones that I have used all summer) are Thai basil and melon and toasted cumin and chick peas. In case you missed it, check it out!

Future Foodservice Innovation: Look to Where Food Sucks and Establish Integrity

Posted 18 Aug 2010 — by S.E.
Category Food Alert Trends

I have a theory about culinary innovation that’s pretty simple but worth talking about. If you want to find the next area of innovation in foodservice, look to where food sucks. It’s not hard to do; there are lots of places where food is sold without regard to quality or integrity. When entrepreneurial chefs find these pockets of low food quality they transform them for the better and find success along the way. The food truck revolution of the past three years is an example. Food trucks used to suck. So are the phenomenal success stories of Chipotle Mexican Grill in the fast casual segment, Stonyfield farm in the yogurt category, and Amy’s organics in retail. Each of these companies established integrity within a category where it was lacking. The list of places where you can find food with integrity is long and getting longer. However, there are still some dark spots out there that present an opportunity for innovation and need fixing.

Recently, I had two food experiences while traveling that confirm my point. While riding the Amtrak Acela to Penn Station in New York I visited the dining car to check it out and get a snack. The set up was nice with approximately one third of the car dedicated to a small pantry, service counter and cashiers station and the rest of the car set with a small counter with seating and places to stand with food. It was nice enough except that there wasn’t a single item on the menu worth eating. Like an airliner, the dining car was outfitted to transport cold food cold and hot food hot but was ill equipped for fresh food preparation. Out of desperation I ordered a turkey sandwich and went back to my seat and unwrapped the sandwich. The turkey slices were compressed into a solid clump centered in a soft roll with a slice of tomato and a limp and bruised lettuce leaf. Needless to say, I didn’t eat it. It seems to me that the Amtrak folks and their designers and consultants place convenience over quality when it comes to food. Amtrak should be able to deliver a high quality turkey sandwich on board with very little fuss and a reasonable price. What a shame they haven’t taken the time to do things right. My prediction: someone’s going to figure out how to bring some credibility to Amtrak’s dining car or the dining car will die a slow death. Integrity with proper control yields financial success, convenience over quality yields failure.

My second example comes from a recent Southwest Airlines flight. That both these bad-food examples occurred while I was trapped on a moving vehicle is noteworthy. Travelers like me become captives with no other food options while on a train or plane. Is this what allows the people in charge of foodservice at these entities to set the bar so low? It pains me to bash Southwest, I actually like the airline on many levels and think they provide tremendous value to travelers. However, the food options on board their flights are weak. I avoid eating the crap they serve in most cases but couldn’t avoid it on a recent trip. By the time I deplaned at the connecting airport on this trip I was starving. The airport was small and regional with no quality food options (captive again!). Sullen, I walked to my gate, boarded my flight and was sitting in my seat before hunger surpassed my idealism. I pulled a Southwest menu out of the seat-back pocket and read it to see if there were any real options. Aside from peanuts, pretzels and Nabisco snacks, there were none. The flight attendant allowed me to select one of each and I sampled.

Studying each of the small packages, I notice that none make any kind of statement about food integrity. I wonder where the peanuts are from, whether they are conventionally sourced, whether my crackers are free of transfats, and whether my pretzels are organic (no) and lye-free (no). For more than five years researchers have been working to genetically engineer the allergens out of peanuts. Are these peanuts modified? I would love to know. No need to open the peanuts, my stomach is turning.

Studying the Nabisco Cheese Nips I notice the product has nineteen ingredients. All of them are generally regarded as safe (GRAS) but if given an option I will pass when it comes to eating the partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil, monosodium glutamate (flavor enhancer), sodium caseinate (casein neutralized by lye), and acetic acid (flavor enhancer) in these nips.

My view is aligned with Professor Kelly Brownell at Yale and Professor (and rock star author) Michael Pollan at Berkeley when it comes to foods with more that a few ingredients. Pollan recommends only eating processed foods with five ingredients or less and Brownell questions whether foods with as many ingredients as my Cheese Nips are actually drugs or controlled substances in disguise. Again, I am left searching for food integrity. At this stage I toss all three packets into the trash when the flight attendant passes by. Southwest has made famous their meager food options as part of their cost containment and low price strategy. This is fine. However, if you serve a snack of any kind, make sure it has integrity. Find a sustainable, scalable source for these types of snacks with high food integrity or ditch them all together.

So that’s my strategy; I look for where food sucks and consider the discovery a revelation. If you are an entrepreneur, seek out where food sucks and you will find your next great opportunity. If you are a major manufacturer, develop products with true integrity and ditch the engineering. It is only a matter of time before the wave of integrity that is washing over American foodservice cleans out these last remaining pockets of bad food. Serve us food with integrity and we will come!

A Vision of Health & Wellness for Kids

Posted 11 May 2010 — by S.E.
Category Food Alert Trends

If you read this blog you know I am addicted to fine food and beverage. One thing you won’t discern from this blog is that I am also into wellness and health and, for years, have maintained an extremely healthy diet accompanied by moderate exercise. However, is about fine food but not necessarily about nutrition, health, and wellness. This is my first major entry about these topics although I have significant experience working with kids to improve wellness and health while reducing obesity. I also choose not to use this blog to promote any sort of political view and remain generally neutral in such matters. So it may come as a surprise that I am willing to offer an endorsement of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign.

My support solidified today after reading Melody Barnes report to the President “Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity within a Generation.” Barnes is Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, Chair of the Task Force on Childhood Obesity, and Director of the Domestic Policy Council. The report was released today on the Let’s Move web site. A summary posted on the site lists the following broad goals:

  1. Getting children a healthy start on life, with good prenatal care for their parents; support for breastfeeding; limits on “screen time”; and quality child care settings with nutritious food and ample opportunity for young children to be physically active.
  2. Empowering parents and caregivers with simpler, more actionable messages about nutritional choices based on the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans; improved labels on food and menus that provide clear information to help make healthy choices for children; reduced marketing of unhealthy products to children; and improved health care services, including BMI measurement for all children.
  3. Providing healthy food in schools, through improvements in federally-supported school lunches and breakfasts; upgrading the nutritional quality of other foods sold in schools; and improving nutrition education and the overall school environment. 
  4. Improving access to healthy, affordable food, by eliminating “food deserts” in urban and rural America; lowering the relative prices of healthier foods; developing or reformulating food products to be healthier; and reducing the incidence of hunger, which has been linked to obesity. 
  5. Getting children more physically active, through quality physical education, recess, and other opportunities in and after school; addressing aspects of the “built environment” that make it difficult for children to walk or bike safely in their communities; and improving access to safe parks, playgrounds, and indoor and outdoor recreational facilities

We invest in many things in this country but there is no better investment than our children. The obesity epidemic is so extensive and has penetrated our youth to such an extent that it must be addressed. Failing to address the epidemic could pose serious harm to the food and beverage industry in the form of increased regulation and declining public trust. If we fail to act we will fail our children and lose control of our destiny.

If we act, we could turn this thing around. I can envision a day when a broad coalition composed of families, educators, food and beverage professionals and governmental agencies come together in pursuit of resolution. Ms. Obama appears to be making progress to this end.

Early in my career I completed a college level nutrition course which required an analysis of thirty days of dietary intake. It was an eye opener. Over the years I have learned to balance a declining metabolism with a reasonable amount of exercise gradual reduction in daily calories. In return I have been rewarded with reasonably good health. This basic knowledge inspired me, when the opportunity arose, to join a couple of nationally known research scientists to conduct a major study of the benefits of teaching elementary school children about food, nutrition and exercise in an effort to reduce adolescent obesity and diabetes. My role was to assemble a working team of chefs and nutritionists who could help build curricula and deliver programs to the children on location in their schools. We received funding for the project from the National Institutes of Health and spent five years working with several school districts conducting a weekly food, nutrition and cooking program with the kids. The results were significant. We can turn this epidemic around.

My comments above do not represent any sort of political endorsement but I do endorse helping our children. Kids need to be taught where food comes from, how to select the right foods, how to eat well, and the value of activity and exercise. Such knowledge is fundamental to long term health and wellness and kids should acquire these skills and knowledge early in their lives. Whether you support the current administration or not, I hope you support “Let’s Move.”

Food Alert: Almonds Are Everywhere

Posted 06 May 2010 — by S.E.
Category Food Alert Trends

Almonds are appearing on menus all over the country. If they were there all along, I must not have noticed. Perhaps my interest in them started when I enjoyed the “La Quercia” prosciutto with honeycomb, orange zest, Marcona almonds and black peppercorn vinaigrette at Avec in Chicago two months ago. The dish was fantastic and the almonds were a major factor in making it so perfect. They added great texture, richness and flavor while enhancing the overall presentation. Eating them forced me to research the origins and qualities of Marcona almonds and this, in turn, further raised my awareness. Since then I have noticed at least one dish that includes almonds on nearly every menu I encounter including the menu at Clio last weekend. Chefs are using smoked almonds, green almonds, regular dried almonds, salted almonds, ground almonds and any other form you can think of. Almonds are finding their way into appetizers, entrees and, of course, desserts. Here’s a sampling of menu descriptions that include almonds from restaurants around the country. By the way, I am not a paid blogger (yet, anyway) and this is not an entry that is funded by the almond board or anyone else. It just seems cool to me to report on a food trend that is happening in real time. There are several other food trends I am noticing that I will report on soon!


 At The French Laundry in Yountville California, Chef de Cuisine Tim Hollingsworth offers a dish with Marcona Almonds.

 Sweet Butter-Poached Maine Lobster “Mitts”

Arrowleaf Spinach, Sunchokes, Marcona Almonds and Navel Orange


At per se in New York Eli Kaimeh and his team prepare several items that include almonds. Here are the actual menu descriptions from per se as posted on May 5th.

White Asparagus “Amandine”

Ramp Top “Subric,” Oregon Morel Mushrooms, “Emincee” of Green Almonds and Roquette


Sautéed Fillet of Australian Hiramasa

Romanesco Cauliflower, Thompson Grapes, Green Almonds

and Cilantro Shoots with Madras Curry Emulsion


Wyle Dufresne of WD~50 in New York offers up an almond laden appetizer. You can see the photo of this dish here

Hanger tartare, smoked almonds, banana, hibiscus


Grant Achatz has them on the menu at Alinea in Chicago too. They show up as the 13th course on the “Tour” menu in the form of

Green Almond, yuzu, wasabi, basil flower


And, finally, Clio in Boston offers a wonderful foie gras dish with Marcona almonds that I blogged about yesterday (see below)

Foie Gras “Terrine”

Marcona Almond Crème, Rhubarb, Violet Artichokes, Nasturtium

Achatz “Next Restaurant” A New Meal Ticket Model?

Posted 04 May 2010 — by S.E.
Category Food Alert Trends


Last night while tracking the James Beard Awards I picked up a twitter from Grant Achatz (2010 winner for Outstanding Service) about his two newest ventures: Next Restaurant and Aviary. Achatz, in my opinion, is a culinary genius and a real survivor. His story is so compelling; one of great triumph in the face of potential tragedy. Any new venture he is involved with is destined for success. It appears, based solely on my experience viewing the website for Next that he isn’t going to disappoint us with these new ventures.

The concept behind Next is fascinating. Diners will buy tickets to “attend” a meal as if the experience is equivalent to going to the theater, a concert, or other event. Meal tickets? Yes, meal tickets. Achatz will offer four heavily researched and tested prix fixe menus per year featuring food from great moments in culinary history and the future (yes, the future).  This is going to be interesting. Prices for tickets will vary according to the date and time you attend. I wonder if Next Restaurant will usher in a global meal ticket based, food concert model. If anyone can pull this off, it’s Achatz and his creative team. Watch for Next sometime in the near future, it will open this year (2010).

I also want to mention Aviary, Achatz’s new bar concept. Aviary is a bar without bartenders. Chefs will prepare drinks from a kitchen. Like Alinea, it is likely that Aviary will feature a high degree of thought and refinement, from the food and beverage, to service ware, interior design and other details. A bar without bartenders featuring chefs who prepare both food and beverage from the kitchen, count me in.

One of the reasons I love tracking events like the James Beard Awards is the peripheral news that surfaces as a byproduct of the event itself. Achatz’s announcement of his two new concepts is an example. If you haven’t visited the Next Restaurant web site, go there. The website itself is an experience. Once both places are up and running, I will visit and follow with another post. Until then, keep an eye on Grant and his crew, once again they are on the verge of shaking up convention.